Antiguan Minister Rejects WIPO Official's Opinion in Online Gambling Flap
A debate triggered by comments made by the director of the Copyright Law Division of the World Intellectual Property Organization at least temporarily raised the question of whether Antigua and Barbuda would be able to collect on its annual $21 million World Trade Organization judgment against the US.
The statement made by WIPO official Jorgen Blomqvist stated that since Antigua was a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, Antigua would be bound to honor the international copyright protection afforded by the treaty, despite the WTO judgment awarded to Antigua in the matter. However, the WIPO later denied formal responsibility for Blomqvist's statements, labeling them as "personal views."
Antigua's Minister of Finance and the Economy, Errol Cort, was also quick to dismiss Blomqvist's assertion. Cort has been the lead official for Antigua's online-gambling interests throughout its battle with the US. "I would have a big difficulty accepting what is being suggested," said Cort, "because if that is so, it puts a nonsense to the whole World Trade Organisation and the rulings and sanctions. It just brings the whole thing into disrepute. So I don't accept that." This came even as Cort and an Antiguan delegation returned from continuing negotiations with the the US Trade Representative office in the matter.
Other international trade experts quickly checked in with opinions on the matter, with the large majority siding with Cort and the Antiguan viewpoint. Frederick Abbott, an international-law professor at Florida State University, noted that countries "often have supplementary treaty obligations that overlap with WTO commitments, and the theory that a member is legally precluded from exercising rights under the 'Dispute Settlement Understanding' because of those supplementary overlapping treaties would undermine the effective operation of WTO dispute settlement." Abbott also cited a legal principle called estoppel, meaning that since the US agreed to the WTO judgment, it cannot later allege a breach of Berne Convention terms regarding copyright matters.
No official announcements were made as a result of the latest talks between Antigua and the US, leaving the matters discussed still under negotiation.